Background: Neuromuscular stimulation coupled with bilateral movements facilitates functional motor recovery of the upper extremities post stroke. This study investigated electromyography activation patterns during training. The leading question asked: Do EMG activation patterns show rehabilitative effects of coupled bilateral movement training on wrist and fingers extension, elbow extension, and shoulder abduction? Methods: Twelve stroke volunteers completed nine hours of coupled bilateral movement training on three sets of joints in their arms. Neuromuscular stimulation on the impaired limb assisted wrist and fingers extension, elbow extension, and shoulder abduction. Mean activation level data were analyzed in a three-way completely within-subjects ANOVA (Training Day × Movement Type × Trial Block: 3 × 3 × 3). Results: The analysis revealed three important findings: (a) activation levels in Days 5 and 6 were significantly higher than Days 1 and 2, (b) muscle activation patterns increased across trial blocks, and (c) movements for the shoulder joint/girdle as well as wrist and fingers demonstrated higher activation than the elbow joint. Further analysis indicated that the muscle activation patterns for shoulder abduction were positively associated with force stabilization (ratio of good variability relative to bad variability) during bilateral force production. Conclusions: The findings indicate that capability to increase muscle activity during the three joint movements was improved after training. There appears to be higher muscle activation in the primary proximal and distal muscles necessary for motor control improvement.
JournaltitleJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation